Reserving up to 50% seats for government medical officers in postgraduate courses will be at the discretion of state governments, said an official from the department of health and family welfare on Friday .While parents and doctors were opposed to the idea of reservation laid down in the draft Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2016, the official said it is only enabling the provision which is not mandatory. The Maharashtra government, which already allows 25% reservation for medical officers, is likely to continue with the policy.

The draft bill, unveiled by the Union health ministry on Thursday, introduced a mandatory National Exit Test (NEXT) for all medical students before they acquire the degree. NEXT will also substitute the entry level test (NEET) for PG admissions, the foreign graduate medical examination and the recruitment exam for central health services. While NEXT evoked mixed reactions from parents and students, most were against the reservation policy for medical officers.

“We have limited seats in postgraduate courses. We can't have a 50% reservation for medical officers. It will affect the chances of meritorious candidates and they will be forced to go abroad, “said Ruiee Kapoor, parent of an MBBS student. “The government needs to clarify the provisions of the bill, “said another parent.

A central government official said the bill is only enabling the provision to reserve up to 50% seats for medical officers and is not mandatory. “It is up to the state government to take a decision on the same, they can completely scrap it,“ said the official. Dr Pravin Shingare, director, Directorate of Medical Education and Research, said the state government has been following a reservation of 25% for close to 30 years. “Right now we do not wish to increase it, unless there is a change in the state's policy, which is unlikely, “he said.